Freeman, Spencer (1892–1982), Irish Hospitals Sweepstake director, was born 10 December 1892 in Swansea, Wales, youngest son among five sons and four daughters of A. Freeman, a financier. At the age of nine Freeman's family moved from London to Johannesburg, South Africa, where Spencer later won a scholarship to Johannesburg College. After working for a short time for a diamond company in Johannesburg, he left (1911) for the USA, where he became a student engineer at the Pullman motor car company in York, Pennsylvania. There he made drawings of assemblies, and became an expert on engine noise. This experience stood him in good stead when he enlisted as a volunteer in the mechanical transport branch of the British army at the outbreak of the first world war, in which he organised the entire mechanical transport salvage operation in France. By the time of his demobilisation in 1919 he had won the Mons Medal, had been mentioned in dispatches, and had attained the rank of captain. Immediately after the war he started a company to manufacture moulded rubber goods, but despite initial success the company went into voluntary liquidation.
After a period of intermittent employment Freeman's brother Sidney, who had been involved in horse racing in South Africa, introduced him to Joe McGrath (qv) and R. J. (‘Dick’) Duggan (qv), who were thinking of organising an Irish sweepstake. Freeman expressed his interest in such a scheme, and lobbying the Irish government paid off on 4 June 1930, when legislation was passed allowing a sweepstake to be organised to raise badly needed funds for Irish hospitals. Hospitals Trust Ltd, a company completely separate from the government, was created to operate the sweepstake draw. Freeman was one of its directors, alongside his two partners. Working from a run-down house on Earlsfort Terrace, they organised their first sweep on the Manchester November handicap of 1930. Freeman, with well honed organisational skills acquired during the war, was responsible for ticket sales. In this role he did a magnificent job, selling tickets to customers as far away as Malaya. In fact, so successful was the sale of tickets that the total prize fund reached £417,000 – £317,000 more than the original sum envisaged by the organisers. Freeman was also responsible for publicising the draw, and here he demonstrated a natural aptitude. In subsequent years he brought Dublin to a standstill by having colourful parades promoting the sweepstake take place by the River Liffey. Responsibility for ticket sales and publicity remained Freeman's brief for most of his time as a director of Irish Hospitals Trust.
In 1939, at the outbreak of the second world war, Freeman placed his services at the disposal of the British government. His organisational skills were again to the fore in the work of the Emergency Services Organisation (ESO), part of Lord Beaverbrook's Ministry of Aircraft Production. The ESO was responsible for restoring production in all munitions factories and frequently commandeered commercial factories’ facilities to assist in the war effort. Freeman served as director at the Ministry of Aircraft Production (1941–4), and as principal director of the ESO (1941–4); he was awarded a CBE in 1942. In 1945 he was seconded to the Board of Trade on special assignment for the restoration of industry to civilian production. He also served throughout the war as a member of the radio board, a committee established by the British war cabinet.
After the war Freeman returned to his involvement with the Irish sweep, now in modern offices in Ballsbridge, Dublin, and faced the challenge that the introduction of the British football pools had brought to the sweepstake's British market. To make the sweep's operations more transparent for the public, he introduced an air-operated machine to mix the tickets, with glass panels, enabling spectators to see into the machine as the tickets were selected during the draw. Freeman enjoyed horse racing, and played a fundamental role in elevating the Irish Derby, which had been run since 1866, to international importance. In 1962, through the influence of Joe McGrath, it was run as the Irish Sweeps Derby; the £30,000 provided by the sweepstake made it the richest race in Europe at the time, with the winner receiving £50,000 as against less than £8,000 in 1961. The enhanced status was reflected in record numbers of first entries (627) and eventual runners (twenty-four); in an attendance of between 40,000 and 70,000; and in the fact that Larkspur, winner of the Epsom Derby, finished fourth. Much of the success was due to Freeman's organisational and promotional gifts. Three years of planning and promotion went into making the 1962 race one of the most glamorous and important sporting events to have taken place in Ireland, which became a recognised arena of top-class flat racing.
Freeman owned the Ardenode Stud in Ballymore Eustace, Co. Kildare, and sold it to Jim Mullion, owner of the 1963 Irish Derby winner, Argus. In 1973 Irish racing journalists voted Freeman Sportsman of the Year, chiefly on account of his having bred the classic winner Zucchero. He enjoyed writing, and produced three books under the aegis of the Good Luck Club, located at the sweepstake offices in Ballsbridge. Two were concerned with the theme of self-improvement: You can get to the top (1972) and Take your measure (1972). He was working on a novel when he died in Dublin on 27 May 1982.
Living in Knocklyon House, Templeogue, Dublin, for most of his life, he married (1924) Hilda Kathleen Toggs (d. 1978); they had one son.